Shadows of Kaendor

I decided that for Lore 24, I will be going with my Kaendor setting again. While I’ve been working with it for years and even ran a few short campaigns in it, the vast majority of that campaign setting exist only as very short mental notes in my head. Barely anything is actually spelled out about its current incarnation, and the parts that do exist are mostly rather vague and remaining at the stage of an idea outline. Lore 24 seems to be the perfect opportunity to turn those ideas and impressions in my mind into actual, concrete setting material.

While my current vision of Kaendor has a surface appearance that is deliberately a fairly generic elfgame Fantasyland, it also has some pretty major divergences. Whose gradual discovery by the PCs as they leave the familiar grounds of civilization is meant to be the central theme and core concept of the campaign setting. I feel that many of the things I want to write down for Lore 24 won’t be able to be really appreciated without any context for the world that they are meant to exist in. And so I want to use this post to provide a general, top level overview of the world, covering the main parameter that are already fairly set in stone.

Since I got a lot of ideas for a new campaign set in Kandor from several D&D 3rd edition books, it seems the most sensible approach to me to simply plan this out as a 3rd edition campaign. A large number of things I want to have in this world already exist in game terms for this system, and it is a game that I am very familiar with and feel very confident with for creating new creature abilities, spells, and unique mechanics.

Shadows of Kaendor is written as a setting for a D&D 3rd edition campaign covering 1st to 10th level, that also is home to a few NPCs up to 12th level. It uses the following books for character creation and advancement options, and for optional rules and mechanics:

  • Player’s Handbook
  • Expanded Psionics Handbook
  • Manual of the Planes
  • Monster Manual
  • Monsters of Faerun
  • Lords of Madness

Other influences and inspirations are taken from the AD&D adventure The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and from Bloodborne, Thief, and Hollow Knight, which should become apparent further below.

The continent of Kaendor is populated by the following peoples, using the creature stats in the brackets (PC options in bold):

  • Snow People (high elf)
  • Fog People (wood elf)
  • Forest People (high elf)
  • Mountain People (goliath)
  • Coast People (gray elf)
  • Sea People (aquatic elf)
  • Plains People (half-elf)
  • Chitines
  • Gnolls
  • Goblins
  • Grimlocks
  • Locathah (amphibious)
  • Ogers
  • Quaggoths
  • Wind People (avariel)

Player characters and NPCs can be of the following classes:

  • Barbarian
  • Cleric
  • Cloistered Cleric
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Psion (psionic)
  • Ranger
  • Rogue
  • Wilder (psionic)
  • Wizard

There will be no prestige classes in the campaign.

Unlike most D&D settings, the world consists of only a small number of planes:

  • Material Plane.
  • Plane of Faerie, the realm of fey and elementals.
  • Plane of Shadow. (Also covers all the functions of the Ethereal Plane.)
  • Unknown Planes beyond the Shadow, the realms of aberrations.

Kaendor is a large coastal region that ranges from Mediterranean climate in the south to sub-arctic in the north. Its civilization is fairly young and accordingly only very sparsely populated. The society and technology is roughly oriented towards the very early Middle Ages. at the end of the Migrtation Period in the 6th and 7th century. Weapons and armor are dominated by one handed swords and axes, spears, bows, chainmail shirts, simple helmets, and round wooden shields. Architecture is very Romanesque in style. In many ways, society has much more resemblance with the images of Celtic and Viking culture than the large kingdoms of the High Middle Ages, though there are a number of fairly powerful and sophisticated coastal city states.

Most larger towns have a low level adept as their priest or shaman, with clerics mostly found in the great temples of the major cities. Wizards are not exactly common, but in most places the locals will be able to give directions to at least one wizard within two or three days’ walk that they have heard of. The vast majority of NPCs are 1st to 6th level, with those of higher level invariably being people of some fame beyond their immediate community.

Shadows of Kaendor does not use sorcerers (or bards). Instead the role of these spellcasters is being filled by Wilders. These are rare people with a special gift that allows them to peer through the surface of the world and gaze at the true nature of reality, enabling them to master doing, seeing, and knowing certain things that should be impossible. To most people these powers seem like magic, but the truth is far more complex and far reaching than that. Psions are scholars who have learned of these occult truth, and through study and meditation have gained access and far greater understanding of these powers that come to wilders naturally. While wilders, and also psions, have been around for a very long time, most people who encounter their powers are mistaken them for magic spells, including even many wizards.

Instead of the much more common sorcerers and demons from a hellish realm of fire that take the role of the supernatural forces of evil, this aspect of Kaendor is occupied by eldritch aberrations that have long been forgotten in the eternal darkness beyond the borders of this world. Exploring these aspects of the setting will obviously lead into the dark and creepy, but Shadows of Kaendor is not meant to turn into a gory horror campaign of bleak despair. It’s still meant to be a world where adventuring heroes can drive back the strange terrors they face off against and emerge from the darkness victories.

Though safety is not guaranteed.

Follow Spriggan’s Den on Mastodon

I just installed ActivityPub on this site, which now makes it possible to follow it through Mastodon.

The account is @Yora, which you put into the search bar on Mastodon and then just follow it like any other Mastodon account. That account will then automatically post a link to any new post that goes up on this site.

Might be useful for people who are interested in my posts here but maybe not necessarily so much in my endless blabbering on Mastodon. ;)

25 Years of Baldur’s Gate

Baldur’s Gate was first released 25 years ago today, on 21st December 1998.

In the summer of 1999, it was a Saturday and I was incredibly bored out of my mind. I had some money saved up and having absolutely nothing else to do, I decided that I should go buy a new game for my computer. I took out my stacks of collected game magazines to flip through them for any highly rated games that I had not really paid attention to before. (We did not have internet yet back then.) And one game that stood out for having extremely high ratings in several magazines was Baldur’s Gate, which had come out half a year earlier. It was a fantasy game, and I didn’t play any fantasy games, and it was in the RPG section, and I’ve never actually read any of the articles in the RPG sections. Strategy, Action, Adventures, and Space Sims were the whole game world for me. But Baldur’s Gate was at the top of any recent release rankings and so I did give the reviews a read. I didn’t really understand what kind of game to expect from that, but the reviews were nothing but high praise. And I really was just looking for something to waste some money on and play for a week or so.

So I hopped on my bike right there and then to ride downtown and see of any of the stores had Baldur’s Gate. Grabbed it, got back home, and played it all weekend. At that point, I had read The Lord of the Rings once because it looked interesting on my parent’s bookshelves, and thought it was quite neat, but didn’t think anything more about it. Other than that, all my experience with fantasy had been children’s books and fairy tales, which our parents had read to us a lot. Somehow fantasy had been something that I knew existed but really didn’t care about the least bit. But Baldur’s Gate had me hooked immediately. It got me into playing a lot more fantasy games after that, and got me into picking up Dungeons & Dragons when the 3rd edition came out the next year. All my hobbies and all my creative work for the last 23 years arr because I was really bored that day and desperate for about anything that could keep me entertained for a few hours hopefully.

Since I have the rest of the year off from work, this is now a great time to attempt my probably tenth complete playthrough of the game.

My Overland Travel Rules adapted for Dragonbane

Yeah, not a good title, but I think it gets the message across.

Always being annoyed with how all the editions of D&D have overland travel speed systems that don’t actually work with any hex map scale other than 1-mile hexes and make you calculate annoying fractions, I eventually had created my own system based on historical data that always would get the party move a full number of hexes in a day without any fractions of hexes as a remainder. I had it all worked out quite well, ignoring forced marches because those really mess things up by giving you additional hours to move.

The Dragonbane rules have greatly simplified forced marches by giving the party two quarters (shifts) of the day for normal travel, with the option to push ahead forba third quarter at the price of becoming exhausted. A third quarter means moving 1.5 times the normal daily distance. And after some considerations, I accepted that the best way to avoid introducing fractions again would be to simply switch from a 6-mile hex grid to a 3-mile hex grid. The old hexes per day become hexes per shift and the players can either move two or three shifts in a day.

I have a great fondness for 6-mile hexes, as it is kind of the established standard scale and has been for decades. But 3-mile hexes just work out so much neater in practice that it’s hard to justify not making that switch. Very fortunately for me, I’ve not yet created the giant wall sized 6-mile hex map for the sandbox I’m currently working on. Otherwise that change to 3-mile hexes would have really hurt.

For everyone’s convenience, here is the updated system for overland travel adjusted for 3-mile hexes and the Dragonbane shift system as tidy tables.

Overland Travel

Load Easy Difficult
Light 6 3
Medium 4 2
Heavy 2 1

This table assumes different levels of Encumbrance, which the Dragonbane rules don’t include by default, but I think are a very important aspect of resource management if that is meant to be a feature of the campaign. In a game without Encumbrance rules, just assume a Medium load for adventurers traveling with all their equipment.

Unlike the rules in nearly any RPG, common mounts like horses don’t actually move any faster over the course of a shift. Their ability to run much faster is entirely negated by their greater need for rest after doing so. But they can carry much greater loads of gear and supplies than a person at the same walking speeds, which makes them hugely valuable (if the game uses Encumbrance rules).

For simplicity, terrain can be either easy or difficult to get through. Make that judgement for whatever types of terrain your setting is using and what feels fitting for the style of your campaign.

River Travel

Current Speed
Downriver, strong 6
Downriver, light 5
No current 4
Upriver, light 3
Upriver, strong 2

River travel might not seem particularly fast compared to someone walking with a light load, especially when going against the current. But as with mounts, a boat enables you to haul much larger loads of gear and supplies without being slowed down significantly. And while traveling on a river, you are also not affected by difficult terrain that cuts your travel speed by half.

Sea Travel

Wind Speed
Favorable 12
Average 9
Unfavorable 6

These sea travel speeds are deliberately kept very simple because ships in the early medieval period my campaign is based on were very slow, and because my game will probably feature barely any naval action. I made this table simply for parties traveling between ports on a single stretch of coastline. For campaigns that feature ship chases and naval actions, the table should probably be expanded to different ship types and more differentiated wind conditions.

Lore 24

It’s now only three more weeks until the start of 2024, so it’s probably high time to get some promotion for this idea going.

I think most people in the DIYRPG space are familiar with Dungeon 23, the big project to write up one room for a big megadungeon every day for all of 2023. While it was hugely popular (at least on Mastodon) in January and February, coming up with a whole new dungeon room every day was a mighty ambitious plan. A few people seem to have made it nearly all the way to the end now, but most have dropped out long ago, and I heard from several other people that they also never started with it because the whole thing seemed just too big from the start.

A few weeks back, we had some conversations on Mastodon about doing something similar in 2024, but for worldbuilding on a campaign setting instead of rooms for a megadungeon.

The whole idea is fairly simple and straightforward:

  • Come up with a general concept for a new campaign setting or take any setting you already done some work on and want to expand upon.
  • For every day in 2024, write up a description of one thing that exists in that world. Could be a place, a creature, a spell, a character, an item, a deity, an event, or whatever you can think of.
  • The purpose of it all is to practice turning vague ideas in your mind into concrete words that can be shared with other people. The entry of the day should of course be something that you’ve written up on that day, but the idea that you’re describing does not necessarily have to be a completely new one. It can just as well be an old idea that you never got to properly put into words before.
  • The entry of the day can take any length or format. Could be as short as a post on Mastodon, or a full page description with stats for your game system of choice, or anything in between.

Personally, I see two main goals in doing something like this. One is that in my experience, ideas become much more concrete and real once you have put them into words, and with that it comes much easier to expand upon them and create connections between the different elements of the world. The other one is to simply share worldbuilding ideas with other people. Small snippets of things that you think are cool and that other people might use as ideas for new things in their own settings. The goal is not so much to have a complete setting finished at the end of the year that is ready to play in. There should be no commitment to treat any of the entries you write as an established fact of the world from that point onward. If at a later point you get ideas for things that would overwrite something you’ve written and shared before, I would not bother about that and just ignore any inconsistencies and conflicts between the entries. If at the end of the year (or even any earlier point) you end up with a big heap of spelled out ideas from which you’ll take only half or a third to use for the world of a future campaign, I would still consider that a huge success.

After some discussion, most people bouncing around ideas seem to be quite happy with using the name Lore 24 for this entire undertaking. It’s short, snappy, and makes for a good hashtag. Which is already being used on Mastodon. With this being a thing that is supposed to be done every day starting at day 1, it really would be great to spread the word about it now in advance as much as possible.

If this idea sounds fun and interesting to you, please do what you can to promote it. Feel free to link to this post if you want to.

Fun with Mapbashing, and perhaps a map for the new Kaendor

Maybe I should just make peace with being that map guy who keeps excitedly posting about new map doodles that I’ll mostly never be using for any campaigns?

I was, once again, feeling unhappy with the latest maps for Kaendor that I made over the last week since the coast lines look too square and there’s too many big blank areas that are just forest with no further detail. So I went looking again for very large maps of the natural geography of the Earth to see if I find any regions with an interesting topography that I could use as references. And I realized that a map of the world looks really weird and barely recognizable when you simply mirror it.

I really like that look (even with the heavy stretching at the poles) and think that this would make a great global map for Kaendor. Zooming in on East (now West) Asia, I noticed that the overall layout of the coastlines already has a very similar general arrangement and my various sketches for Kaendor maps have had for the last two years or so now.

Southeast Asia happens to be where I always placed the huge jungles of Kemesh where the remnants of the ancient naga empires are barely holding on. But making all the small seas between the Indonesian island into dry land (which was once the case), there’s now just precisely the vast jungles that I wanted in that place. The cool thing about this is that I can still use all the mountain ranges in that region as a fast method to have a perfectly plausible topography.

I also decided to greatly simplify the islands of the First Island Chain because I think those would stand out too obviously as being just a mirrored map of Asia. And it also will save me a lot of work with very fiddly details.

A map at the scale above is way too big for any practical uses in any single campaign, and even covering that area on a 30-mile hex map would be ridiculously huge. As a map for Kaendor, I already changed the scale to 75% the lengths of distances (which means 56% the total area), just so that I can fit more interesting squiggly coastlines on the cool A2, 30-mile hex sheets I made. For the Kaendor ’24 campaign, I instead want to focus just on the central area shown below. But having that large, zoomed out map with little detail at hand as a reference will surely come super handy when it comes to adding mentions about distant lands and peoples beyond the known world to the setting. And if at some point in the future I might want to fully map out some of those areas in the same higher detail, it will all already be geographically consistent with whatever mentions and references I had used before.

And this is the area that I plan to turn into a fully worked out 30-mile hex map. Having all the mountain ranges and rivers already in place, and being able to look up images of the real landscapes, really helps a lot with inspiring ideas to what details I could fill this map with. I even can look up climate data if I want to, though with the map now flipped, wind directions and the corresponding rain patterns would not match up perfectly. But I think the climate of Europa and East Asia happens to be similar enough that it doesn’t even bother this one geography mega-nerd who surely is the only person to pay a single thought to this.

I’m having a lot of fun with this, and I am feeling really good (though I always do that) about this maybe being the final geography layout for Kaendor. With the arrangement being so similar to what I already established about the geography in the past, it should be really easy to copy all the locations over on this map without much breaking.